Dardis Academy: The Solid Foundation for Career Success

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As many college students turned in their final projects and exams to mark the end of the semester, another set of students hit the classroom once again even after their exams were complete. Nearly 175 students participated in the two Dardis Academy training sessions in May held in Chicago and Des Moines. Designed as an application-based, skills-drive training, this one-week intensive course prepares students for the upcoming Dardis Classroom to Career internship program and beyond.

Dardis1While thousands of young people enter the workforce every year, research shows that most college grads do not possess the skills that companies look for in candidates. A National Association of Colleges and Employers survey of more than 200 employers shows that the vast majority of employers look for candidates who are team players, problem solvers and can plan, organize and prioritize their work.  It’s the soft skills – not the textbook knowledge – that really sets candidates apart, which is what we focus on in the Academy.

We tailor the Academy based on these effective adult learning methods:

  • Interactive coaching from professional instructors
  • Strong role modeling
  • Individual practice against real-world challenges

“During the Academy, we had extensive training on presentation skills and selling techniques. I learned a lot about how I present myself, and this has already helped me outside of the internship when I’m making presentations for class, as well as talking to people in a business setting.”
– Jon S., 2012 Dardis Academy Graduate, University of Iowa

Students receive more than $6,000 worth of executive training from seasoned business professional focused on crucial topics such as:Dardis3

  • Presentation skills
  • Professional image skills
  • Selling techniques
  • Closing and negotiation skills
  • Business etiquette
  • Telephone/voicemail/email etiquette
  • Overcoming objections and handling questions
  • Product features and benefits
  • Time and territory management

Armed with these practical skills, students are prepared to succeed in our summer internship program and, most importantly, in their careers as they use their business and sales skills to first get the job and then excel in their future positions.

Set to Impress: Justin Blackburn

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In our latest intern spotlight, we feature multi-week top seller Justin Blackburn. Justin, a junior at the University of Iowa, began his Dardis internship with no previous sales or retail experience, but his summer has already proven to be successful.

This 20-year-old Johnston, Iowa native enrolled in the Dardis Classroom to Career program to boost his resume and challenge himself, while building his network and business skills.

“This looks a lot better than working at Hy-Vee, my only other job,” Justin said, “and making some cash never hurts!”

Read on to learn about Justin’s exciting experience with Dardis.

What are your long-term career goals?
I want to find a job that I enjoy going to every day. You’ve probably heard the saying, “If you are going to a job that you don’t enjoy, then you are working. If you are going to a job that is enjoyable for you, then you never work a day in your life.” A well-paying job that I enjoy and can support my future family with is all I can really ask for.

What was the most valuable information you learned in the Dardis Sales Academy?
I think the most valuable information I learned in the Dardis Academy were the communication skills, presentation skills and professional image training. These are skills that I am going to be able to use in every aspect of my life. I am going to have to communicate and present to people, and I need to look sharp while doing it. Dressing for the job you want, not the job you have will be my motto as I start my career.

What are you looking forward to the most with this summer experience?
Networking with business professionals. Networking is huge in the business world today. As the saying goes, “It’s not what you know, but who you know.”

How has the transition gone from the Academy to selling the Dardis product?
It has gone really well as I apply the skills I learned in the classroom to the real world. If you apply the communication, presentation and sales training skills that you learned in the classroom to the actual selling of the Dardis product, you are going to do well. My biggest success story was that I sold 42 embroidered polos to the athletic director of the high school I graduated from. I have known him for a long time and being able to help him and his staff is a huge success story in my eyes.

Do you have a favorite Dardis product?
The multi-herringbone check button-down dress shirt. It is the most versatile shirt we have and it is also a very sharp shirt.

What fashion/menswear advice do you plan to share with all of your clients?
There are two: do not wear a tie with a button-down shirt, ever, and always dress for the job you want, not the job you have.

How do you think your role with Dardis Clothiers will benefit you in the future as you begin your post-college career?
I think it will benefit me greatly. When a future employer looks at my resume, this internship will really catch their eye. It will also be a great talking point in an interview with an employer. I can say that I ran my own clothing business, prospected, networked, sold and that everything was my responsibility. I really think employers are going to be impressed.

Katelyn Wheeldon: Building Skills in the Real World

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University of Iowa sophomore Katelyn Wheeldon entered the business world long before she entered the Dardis Classroom to Career program. As a student at Sigourney High School, Katelyn, now 18, owned her own gift wrapping service and gift basket sales business through the eSigourney Entrepreneurial Academy for Leadership program. Now Katelyn is building up her network in southeastern Iowa and meeting successful individuals that work or own their own businesses, as well.

Below, Katelyn shares what drives her and how the Dardis internship program is building the foundation for a successful career.

Why did you enroll in the Dardis Classroom to Career internship program?
I wanted real-world experience, and I know that sales is important in any field. You will always be selling something, whether that something is a product, service, idea or yourself. Dardis has given me a solid foundation to build upon, which I can continue to build up long after this summer.

What are your long-term career goals?
I’m really interested in public relations and advertising. The strategies behind ads we see every day are fascinating, and there is so much work that goes into that billboard you see on your way to work or a 30-second commercial that you see on TV.

What was the most valuable information you learned in the Dardis Sales Academy?
I learned so much in the Dardis Sales Academy, but the two things that stick out in my mind are active listening and eye contact. Learning that the number one complaint about salespeople is that they talk too much made me try to ask open-ended questions and listen to my customers. Also, learning how to cut out filler words through eye contact helped me give effective presentations and talk to large groups of people.

What goals do you hope to achieve this summer?
My big goal is the Mexico trip, which is awarded to the interns who meet a goal of sales, but my other goal is to get to the point to where I am presenting the clothing to different people at least five times a day.

Do you have a favorite Dardis product?
I really like the ties. It allows men to bring out a little fun and personality in their wardrobe. Plus, you can always find a tie that goes with a Dardis dress shirt or a previously owned shirt.

What advice do you plan to share with all of your clients?
Socks should match the pants and not the shoes. Also, that dress shirt sleeves should be a little long so that the sleeves stick out of the suit coat a bit.

How do you think your role with Dardis Clothiers will benefit you in the future as you begin your post-college career?
Dardis and Dardis Sales Academy taught me skills that I can use in my future career and even currently in my classes. I have taken a sales class before, but actually being out in the real world selling something is totally different. You have to think on your feet and think of answers that aren’t in a textbook. You are tested every day and in every meeting – not just every few weeks with a fill-in-the-bubble test.

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